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San Diego Humane Society

Declawing Cats

Unintended Issues

Many people think that declawing their cat will be a simple solution to prevent unwanted scratching and clawing. However, declawing can actually cause other unintended issues like:

  • Refusal to use their litter box.
  • More aggressive behavior.
  • Lack of protection — even if your cat lives indoors, if she were ever to get out, claws are her defense to protect herself.

Also, scratching and clawing are natural and important behaviors for cats! San Diego Humane Society does not recommend declawing a cat. Instead you can try:

  • Trimming nails regularly.
  • Buying scratching posts and training your cat that those are appropriate areas to scratch (not your couch!).
  • Placing some wide, double-sided tape (two-sided carpet tape can be found at bigger home and
  • hardware stores) on the areas that your cat likes to scratch. Since cats dislike sticky surfaces, they won’t want to touch these strips of tape, preventing scratching in these established places.
  • Try a product called Soft Paws, flexible plastic caps that cover each cat claw completely. This prevents damage to your furniture while you train.

What Is Declawing?

Declawing is a medical procedure to amputate each toe at the first joint (third phalanx bone). The medical term for declawing is onychectomy. Many people believe it’s the equivalent of cutting our fingernails, but this is not the case. It’s actually the equivalent of cutting off the last knuckle bone on our fingers.

Physical Complications

  • There is the possibility of an adverse reaction to general anesthesia.
  • Your cat may experience a reaction ranging from mild discomfort to extreme pain.
  • If the entire nail bed was not removed completely, the claws can grow back; regrowth of a nail due to improper removal of the bone at the time of surgery is called a sequestrum. If a nail grows back, you must take your cat to your veterinarian.
  • Chronic back and joint pain may occur as shoulder and leg muscles weaken.

Behavioral Complications

  • Cats can feel pain just like any other animal.
  • The first time she tries to walk, run, jump, stretch, use the litter box and/or scratch, it may hurt; she may not want to walk because of the pain.
  • She may stop playing, jumping and interacting with you because simply walking is too painful.
  • Some cats get over it quickly; others may not be interactive for a long time.
  • A declawed cat is more likely to bite if she feels threatened by another animal, a child or even her surroundings.
  • They may be more likely to hide and become less social and active with you or other animals.

For more help, check out this article on cat scratching.

Additional Resources About Declawing: 

Behavior Helpline: Contact Our Behavior Team

For behavior questions, please contact our Behavior Helpline either by calling 619-299-7012, ext. 2244, emailing or filling out our Ask a Trainer form. San Diego Humane Society adopters can fill out the Post Adoption Consultation form to schedule their troubleshooting session. We aim to respond within seven days, but responses may take up to two weeks. Thank you for your patience!

Note: Due to the potential for serious injury, canine and feline aggression are best handled by a professional who specializes in aggressive behaviors. Because phone or email counseling is inadequate for addressing serious behavior concerns, we ask that you contact a qualified professional for help. Please refer to the list of behavior resources here.

Questions About Public Classes

San Diego Humane Society offers training classes and resources to address a variety of needs for companion animals.

Our training philosophy is based on the behavioral science concepts of positive reinforcement. Training your pet using these concepts will not only help them learn new behaviors more quickly, but it will also strengthen the bond you share.

Please visit our website for a current schedule of training classes or call 619-279-5961. 

View Training Classes   Gift a Training Class


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